Musings on a Sales Tax Hike: Duffy’s Sales Tax Advantage

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Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy has taken his first turn at commenting on the sales tax hike proposal by County Executive Maggie Brooks. And he basically gave it a pan.

Duffy said that raising taxes would be his last resort… implying that the county and Brooks haven’t met the threshold for hitting the "last resort."

This is interesting coming from a man who about a month or so ago went to Albany and pleaded for his "fair share" of money from New York State in the form of aid. He used a per-capita calculation to show that Rochester gets less in direct state aid than Buffalo, Yonkers and Syracuse… the other big cities outside of the Big Apple. As if he wasn’t asking for more taxes – state taxes.

But it gets you to thinking about this as well… Rochester gets far more in "aid" from the sales tax than those other cities. Just check out page 14 of State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s report on sales taxes in New York State. Look at what cities got from the sales tax in 2004:
Buffalo: $60.7 million
Yonkers: $53.8 million
Syracuse: $49.3 million
Rochester: $86.5 million

Now, I’m not sure what population measure the city used to derive their per capita comparison when it comes to state aid… (although it showed Rochester getting less than the other cities). But let’s use the census number for population and the above sales tax take:
Buffalo: $207
Yonkers: $275
Syracuse: $335
Rochester: $394

Why I would expect Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown to be storming the state capitol asking for parity any day now. After all, it is the state legislature that enacted the sharing arrangement for sales tax in Monroe County. And sales taxes on the local level must be approved by state lawmakers.

We all know why this is the case – because (as the Hevesi report showed again) Monroe County’s sharing arrangement is, by far, the most generous to county municipalities.

We should note that Duffy complains about the Brooks plan even as it provides more in sales tax money down the line. Interesting. And you might want to clip this and save the numbers above. Should the city want to negotiate with the Brooks administration – and want more… we all should refer to the figures.